Rover's 'SAM' lab instrument suite tastes soil

Nov 14, 2012 by Guy Webster
This subframe image from the left Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows the covers in place over two sample inlet funnels of the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

(Phys.org)— A pinch of fine sand and dust became the first solid Martian sample deposited into the biggest instrument on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity: the Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM.

Located inside the rover, SAM examines the chemistry of samples it ingests, checking particularly for chemistry relevant to whether an environment can support life. Curiosity's robotic arm delivered SAM's first taste of to an inlet port on the rover deck on Nov. 9. During the following two days, SAM used , and laser spectrometry to analyze the sample.

The sample came from the patch of windblown material called "Rocknest," which had provided a sample previously for mineralogical analysis by Curiosity's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. CheMin also received a new sample from the same Rocknest scoop that fed SAM. SAM has previously analyzed samples of the .

"We received good data from this first solid sample," said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "We have a lot of data analysis to do, and we are planning to get additional samples of Rocknest material to add confidence about what we learn."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the rover.

Explore further: Second time through, Mars rover examines chosen rocks

Related Stories

NASA's Mobile Mars Laboratory almost ready for flight

Oct 08, 2010

The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite has completed assembly at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and is nearly ready for a December delivery to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory ...

Recommended for you

Astronauts to get 'ISSpresso' coffee machine

8 hours ago

Ristretto or lungo? Not a question astronauts on the International Space Station normally have to contemplate, but that is about to change thanks to a new zero-gravity coffee machine being delivered this weekend.

What is the difference between asteroids and comets?

12 hours ago

Asteroids and comets have a few things in common. They are both celestial bodies orbiting our Sun, and they both can have unusual orbits, sometimes straying close to Earth or the other planets. They are both ...

Second time through, Mars rover examines chosen rocks

14 hours ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has completed a reconnaissance "walkabout" of the first outcrop it reached at the base of the mission's destination mountain and has begun a second pass examining ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.